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GYO Program Highlights

Grow Your Own (GYO) programs are flourishing across New York and other states. We have compiled a small selection of these program highlights below. The New York programs are categorized by GYO entry points and partnerships, and represent highlights from Western New York, the Finger Lakes, Central New York, the Southern Tier, Hudson Valley, and New York City regions. Program information was collected from GYO program websites, media publications, and communications with programs as a follow up to their online resources. For information on publicizing GYO programs, please see GYO Program Sustainability: Share Your Programs & Events. If there is a GYO program that should be included in the GYO Program Highlights section, please fill out our Let Us Know! form or email us at

Highlights Across New York State - Early Recruitment Pipelines

Kenmore Town of Tonawanda (Ken-Ton) Union Free School District

Ken-Ton Union Free School District, where close to 40% of its staff are Ken-Ton alumni, has been growing educators from within for many years. As a district, they investigated how to attract and retain teachers long term and leaned into local sourcing. Ken-Ton has terrific partnerships with 4-5 IHEs including University at Buffalo (UB), whose residents student teach 3 days a week and substitute teach 2 days a week in Ken-Ton schools for a full academic year, and are often hired by Ken-Ton when they complete their programs. Developing Take a Look at Teaching (TALAT) clubs at both district high schools was a natural step for the community, and an opportunity for 9th – 12th grade students to gain a deeper understanding of what goes into teaching and an appreciation for teachers’ work. In addition to regular meetings a few times a month after school, club members also work with district elementary schools, assist with after-school events, and visit local institutions of higher education (IHE) to learn about the various pathways into the field of education. TALAT club members who are also enrolled in Erie 1 BOCES Education Pathways Academy (please see GYO Highlights Across New York: BOCES Programs for more information) all go on to teacher preparation programs. In Ken-Ton, the field of education is an established pathway that runs through each of its schools, where students gain experience at education conferences and earn college education course credit while in high school. Ken-Ton encourages other districts to look within their staff to lead the initiative in recruiting current students into education, particularly underrepresented students. Their passion for their work will lead the work in highlighting the successes of teachers and staff districtwide, sharing with students the fulfilling benefits of teaching.

Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District

Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District highlights the advantages of working with multiple partners. Upon creating their Take a Look at Teaching (TALAT) club, they partnered with four neighboring districts with differing demographics who also have TALAT clubs. Through combined events, Niagara-Wheatfield students learn from one another across district lines and have opportunities to engage in teaching activities with multiple populations. Niagara-Wheatfield also partners with their local BOCES to host professional development activities and educational conferences where TALAT club members learn from keynote speakers and participate in analytical discussions about best educational practices. Niagara-Wheatfield has also built collaborative partnerships with Niagara University, Buffalo State College, Canisius college, and Niagara County Community College, multiple campuses that club members visit to engage in education course activities and listen to panel discussions that represent the whole teaching profession. Within Niagara-Wheatfield, TALAT club members partner with district elementary teachers to create bulletin boards for Niagara-Wheatfield schools with a diversity, equity, and inclusion focus, showcasing the world-wide locations district students hail from. They also partner with district and local librarians to create in-person and on-line reading activities for community children. TALAT club advisors partner with their colleagues to create short videos for club members about why and how they entered the field of education, highlighting the multiple motivations and pathways into and through teaching. Niagara-Wheatfield proudly hires their alumni for multiple educational roles, feeling their collaborative experiences shape them into the best candidates. Niagara-Wheatfield alumni returning to the district as educators is a great tribute to their grow your own initiatives. Once a Falcon, always a Falcon.  

White Plains City School District

White Plains City School District embraces their responsibility in long range planning and presents a wide, long view of the entire education pathway. Starting with generating an early interest in education for young students, White Plains elementary students are excited when Take a Look at Teaching (TALAT) club members work with them. They are drawn into the prospect of teaching by these passionate, young professionals. Capitalizing on this early interest, White Plains is opening up their TALAT clubs to middle school students so they may engage in teaching activities sooner. White Plains also removes barriers on the education pathway, making the field more accessible and feasible for community members. Working with college and university partners, White Plains chips away at the cost of licensure for their students by laying out a path from high school to 2-year and 4-year teacher preparation programs. On this pathway, district high school students can graduate with a Teaching Assistant certification, a tangible opportunity to be employed by the district, and earn an income while working towards teaching certification. White Plains encourages other districts to work with a network of partners, from district administration to university faculty, to align dual credit courses with college programs, to ensure coursework will be transferred into preparation programs. The district emphasizes that partnerships are key to generating ideas and seeing them through to fruition.

Windsor Central School District

Windsor Central School District highlights the connection teaching has to all other professions and the need for Take a Look at Teaching (TALAT) programs to prepare students professionally for the field of education and beyond. As a member district of the Southern Tier Teacher Academy, Windsor has developed partnerships with neighboring districts, Broome Community College, and Binghamton University to create experiential opportunities for students to grow as professionals. Windsor TALAT club members complete dual credit coursework sponsored by their higher education partners and participate in on-campus networking events with education students and program faculty. Club members also complete observation hours throughout Southern Tier Teacher Academy school districts to gain experience in multiple demographics and practice networking and professional communication skills including post-observation messages of appreciation. These observation experiences occur within and beyond the classroom to include an array of leadership and business roles as well. Windsor TALAT Club members also create resumes and cover letters, participate in mock interviews, and network at annual spring events where they share their observation experiences throughout the year, mingle with alumni currently enrolled in educator preparation programs, and celebrate the field of education. Windsor proudly hires their TALAT club alumni, sometimes as teaching assistants in anticipation of projected educator positions, because they know each of their club members is future ready for any career path they choose.

Highlights Across New York State - BOCES Programs

Erie 1 BOCES 

The Erie 1 BOCES New Visions programs connect qualified, highly-motivated high school seniors with local colleges and universities and mentoring professionals in the workplace. Through these programs, students expand their knowledge in a chosen career path where they develop connections and a “New Vision” to help them make an informed decision about their future. These competitive, on-site programs integrate required English and Social Studies credits with targeted studies at locations such as Canisius University, Buffalo State University, and SUNY Erie. 

New Vision students initially spend about 6 weeks in the New Vision classroom establishing foundational knowledge in their program, then begin working with mentors in the field to gain a broad understanding of the work that's involved in their chosen position. The New Visions classroom remains a home base for students where they meet regularly as a group to reflect on their field experiences and gain deeper knowledge about their future profession. 

The New Visions Education Pathways Academy is a 1-year, senior-level, highly academic program that allows students to explore the field of education while earning high school and college credits. Students learn the fundamentals of education, including education terminology and frameworks, technology, structure, mandates, and services through both theory-based and experiential learning. Students participate in rotations in a variety of educational settings including elementary, middle, and high school, as well as specialty areas such as special education, music, art, occupational and physical therapy, speech, counseling, and administration. The New Visions program functions to show educator candidates everything that education has to offer and ultimately allows students to select and consider the areas they find most relevant and appealing. Pedagogical topics of study include classroom and behavior management, child and adolescent development, lesson planning and execution, data-driven instruction and assessment, social emotional learning and best teacher practice, and working with students with disabilities. 

Monroe 2 Orleans BOCES 

The Teacher Immersion Fellows (TIF) Program is a partnership between Monroe 2 Orleans BOCES, area colleges and universities, and participating school districts that offers college students the opportunity to gain paid experience in the education field while enhancing their educational and employment opportunities throughout their college experience. In addition to substitute teaching responsibilities in partner public school districts, Fellows also participate in paid professional development courses to enhance their skills. 

The TIF program began in the 2015 – 2016 school year when Hilton Central School District administrators reached out to the SUNY Brockport Field Experience Office to address their substitute teaching shortage. After a successful fall and spring semester, Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES and the Brockport Central School District joined in the collaboration and expanded the program to all three districts in fall 2016. During the 2018-2019 academic year, the program expanded to include six colleges and 19 school districts. Today, the program includes nine institutions of higher education and more than 30 school districts. Fellows benefit by participating in staff development and receiving a consistent work schedule with compensation. Districts benefit by having ready substitute teachers who are well versed with the district and have relationships with district personnel and students. 

In order to be considered for the program, applicants must be enrolled in a participating college or university, be available to work at least one day per week during typical school hours, have reliable transportation to and from their district of placement, commit to at least one semester of reliable in-district work, agree to complete all required professional development in a timely manner, complete an application and interview, and pass a reference check.

Highlights Across New York State - Higher Education Programs

SUNY Buffalo State

SUNY Buffalo State is a proud member of the Professional Development Schools Consortium, a partnership of over 60 certification programs, over 100 schools/community agencies, and 45 formal agreements across New York, Texas, and five continents. SUNY Buffalo State also sponsors the Urban Teacher Academy, an early recruitment pipeline designed to develop a diverse generation of educators for Buffalo Public Schools. This supportive program for high school students takes an innovative approach to educating future educators by providing:

  • A four-year high school program that includes participation in the Summer Institute at Buffalo State in the summer prior to candidates’ senior year;
  • Advanced study credits, integrated ELA & Math credit, earning candidates up to 12 college credits before graduating high school;
  • Preparation to teach in an urban school setting, exploring numerous subjects and grade levels;
  • Hands-on learning opportunities in work-based classroom field experiences;
  • Individual mentoring from an experienced urban teacher;
  • Certifications, such as first Aid CPR/AED, Child Abuse Identification Workshop, Violence Intervention and Prevention Workshop, and Dignity for All Students Act Training (DASA Training); and
  • Eligibility for priority employment with Buffalo Public Schools.

SUNY Buffalo State also has the Find Your Path Back to Teaching initiative, which provides individualized assessments, advising, paths, and systems of support for individuals who started a teacher education program but did not complete all certification or program requirements. Through Find Your Path Back to Teaching, the Buffalo State Teacher Education Unit uses a variety of campus resources to help candidates achieve their goal of becoming a New York State certified teacher. These include the Teacher Certification Office, the Career Development Center, partnerships with over 100 schools through the Professional Development Schools (PDS) Consortium, as well as other forms of academic and career supports. Find Your Path Back to Teaching is open to anyone who started a teacher education program but does not currently hold a New York State teacher certificate.

SUNY Cortland

SUNY Cortland’s Urban Recruitment of Educators (CURE) program is a comprehensive approach to urban teacher preparation that provides scholarship ($4,000 per year for up to 4 years) and mentorship support to students of color interested in becoming teachers. Since 1998, more than 250 students have been admitted to the CURE program and 85% have taught for at least two years in high-need schools throughout New York state, and a majority have expanded into teacher leader or administrator roles.

Candidates who participate in the CURE Program:

  • Demonstrate awareness of the complex systems that shape education and the ways that marginalization and oppression (particularly in the form of racism, classism, and ableism) impact issues such as school funding, curriculum, assessment and accountability, and school discipline.
  • Analyze their own intersectional identities in order to become aware of bias and to successfully serve students from marginalized and oppressed backgrounds.
  • Develop perspectives that position the teacher as an agent of change in society and develop skills and strategies for advocacy on behalf of students, families, colleagues and communities.

CURE Program coursework provides a complex understanding of the issues of urban education, such as FSA 101 Introduction to Urban Education, FSA 103: Gender, Race, and Class in Education, and INT 270 Exploring Education with an Urban Focus. Each CURE candidate is assigned a peer mentor to ease the transition to college and develop a network of support. CURE candidates also receive academic support through learning profiles they complete at the campus Learning Center and weekly meetings they attend with CURE staff to address academic and transition needs.

The CURE Program is partially funded by the Teacher Opportunity Corps II, a New York State Education Department grant-funded program developed to increase the number of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals in teaching careers. TOC II programs incorporate strategies for teacher retention and best practice, such as mentors for new teachers and differentiated instructional techniques. The State Education Department seeks to invest in programs that bolster the retention of highly qualified individuals who value equity and reflect the diversity inside and outside of classrooms, particularly in high-need schools with recurrent teacher shortages.

SUNY New Paltz

Educator Preparation Academy (EdPrep) is an early recruitment pipeline designed to inspire and prepare high school students, including bilingual and multilingual students, to pursue educator preparation programs at SUNY New Paltz for entry into careers in education. The EdPrep Academy is a youth participatory model that channels students’ voices about their own schooling experiences in developing responsive, relevant learning programs. Students in grades 10 and 11 may enroll and are expected to complete a two-year course sequence:

  • Introduction to the EdPrep Academy: This year-long class is geared to cultivate students’ interest, knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to be successful educators in diverse communities. The class includes guided experiences in Ossining School District PreK - 12 classrooms.
  • Integrating English Language Learners in the School and Classroom (SED 319): This year-long SUNY New Paltz course focuses on instructional techniques and strategies for meeting the needs of English language learners (ELLs). Students examine how language proficiency affects academic development, and how to choose the most appropriate materials and activities for the classroom.

SUNY New Paltz and Ossining School District are also approved sites for the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAPP), a consortium of universities and community-based organizations that spearheads programming in Latinx communities to honor diversity in schools and promote new career opportunities for students.

University at Buffalo

The Teacher Residency Program at The University at Buffalo works toward diversity in their local teaching community and equity in the quality of school experiences for historically underserved communities by attending to the preparation, support and retention of diverse, learner-ready teachers through intentionally designed, high-quality, paid residencies. The program recruits strong, economically and racially diverse candidates and collaboratively prepares them for high-need positions and hard-to-staff schools. The residency experience diminishes the first-year learning curve for new teachers and reduces turnover, providing the stability needed to retain teachers in the profession.

The Teacher Residency Program is built on the medical residency model, providing a clinically-intensive pathway to certification. Resident teachers serve in a co-teaching capacity alongside an expert mentor teacher for a full school year while simultaneously engaging in rigorous university coursework. Theory and practice merge, and residents hone their skills with the support of mentor teachers and university faculty. Upon completion, residents are adept, culturally proficient, transformational teachers who foster positive academic and social-emotional change in urban classrooms. Residents are well-equipped with the skill-set necessary to lead their classrooms and meet the varied needs of historically marginalized students, families, and school communities.

University of Rochester

University of Rochester hosts two Teacher Residency Programs: The ROC Urban Teaching Fellows Program and the Monroe Regional Teacher Residency Consortium. Both programs collaboratively prepare and sustain skilled teachers pursuing initial certification to effectively serve the varied needs of students, families, and school communities.

The ROC Urban Teaching Fellows Programs is a 15-month residency program that includes a full academic year in a Rochester city school, co-teaching four days per week with a mentor and serving one day per week as a building substitute. Residents enter as a cohort and begin a full schedule of courses the first summer of enrollment, continuing throughout the school year, and concluding at the end of the following summer. All residents receive at least $15,000 of tuition assistance, alongside $43,000 in pay with benefits from the Rochester City School District. Residents will have the opportunity for employment in the Rochester City School District upon program completion. Residents make a two-year commitment to teach in the district with continuous mentorship as a beginning teacher.

The Monroe Regional Teacher Residency Consortium is a 15-month residency program that includes a full academic year in a partnering Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES or Monroe One BOCES school district, co-teaching four days per week with a mentor and serving one day per week as a building substitute. Residents enter as a cohort and begin a full schedule of courses the first summer of enrollment, continuing throughout the school year, and concluding at the end of the following summer. All residents receive at least $15,000 of tuition assistance, alongside a minimum of $20,000 in pay from the school district where they are placed. Residents who are successful completers of the program will have strong consideration for employment in partnering Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES and Monroe One BOCES school districts upon program completion.

Highlights Across New York State – Community Organizations & Consortia

Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers (TSTT)

The Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers (TSTT) program is an 8-year, full circle, collaborative model, designed to reverse the growing shortage of highly qualified teachers, particularly teachers of color, in Westchester County and surrounding areas. The early recruitment educator pipeline mentors and trains culturally diverse and economically challenged students starting in high school through college and in their roles as effective teachers and committed leaders who strengthen schools and communities. The TSTT program has a successful track record of improving student academic achievement, high school and college graduation rates and the number of teacher certifications received. TSTT has produced over 250 graduates who are now teachers. Current TSTT educator candidates are engaged in a number of the organization’s equity-focused initiatives:

  • Male Teachers of Color. The Purpose of this initiative is to provide young men with the leadership, character and maturity it takes to become a well-rounded student. TSTT provides a safe space for young men of like interests to come together and discuss the issues that deeply affect young men of color. At TSTT, they will train to become stellar students; develop a strong sense of self and community while sharpening their academic and social skills.
  • STEM Initiative. TSTT has a proven model that creates excellent Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers of color, 90% of whom remain in the profession after 5 years – almost double the average retention for teachers nationally.  Only about 1.3 percent – less than 10,000 – of the available pool of minority high school graduates earn engineering degrees from America’s colleges and universities each year. However, close to 25 percent of TSTT high school students are STEM majors and over 90 percent of them – all economically challenged, underprivileged young people of color – go to college, and over 70 percent graduate. For those that do not become teachers, they go into STEM careers. And for the students that do become teachers, they return to their local schools as STEM teachers to foster the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math enthusiasts.
  • Student Leadership Movement. To enhance the TSTT program, a middle school student enrichment component was created to integrate TSTT activities into the school day, increasing focus on student leadership and providing seamless transitions from middle school through college. The program focuses on service learning and enrichment activities, fostering students’ engagement and academic achievement to create a positive school climate and culture. The Student Leadership Movement establishes membership in Educators Rising (formerly Future Educators Association), an early recruitment educator pipeline, developing an appreciation for and interest in teaching and creating positive role models in schools and communities. Leadership and character are developed through peer mentoring, peer tutoring, and character development activities designed to produce leaders. Pre-college readiness experiences are also provided for students to take college courses and engage in cooperative student teaching experiences.
  • Community College Partnership Initiative. The TSTT Community College Partnership Initiative is a transformational model that ensures culturally diverse and economically challenged high school students can become college graduates and certified teachers. Upon high school graduation, students can enroll in an education degree program at a community college that leads to Teacher Assistant Certification. Upon graduation from community college, TSTT ensures students’ credits are accepted at a TSTT four year partnering college/university so the candidates can complete their education degree program.  Students also receive a minimum 50% tuition scholarship and a college mentor.  Most importantly, TSTT provides job placement assistance for teacher assistants within their local counties.

New York City (NYC) Teaching Fellows

The NYC Teaching Fellows program prepares college graduates and career changers to become exceptional teachers, using their skills and experiences to ignite students’ imaginations and challenge them to dream big. NYC Teaching Fellows is one of the country’s largest and most selective alternative routes to teacher certification. The training program hones essential skills new teachers need to be ready to lead a classroom on day one and make a difference for the students who need them the most for years to come. NYC Teaching Fellows know every lesson has the power to inspire, every hour in the classroom is precious, and every student has the opportunity to achieve success. They know that having even one amazing teacher can make a meaningful difference in a student's life. Today, more than 10,000 Fellows teach high-needs subjects, including Special Education, Science, Math, and Spanish in New York City classrooms.

NYC Fellows begin with a rigorous pre-service training program where they study, observe, and practice in NYC Classrooms, working one-on-one with experienced coaches to get the feedback they need to become talented teachers. Within cohorts, fellows learn and practice essential classroom techniques to prepare for their first day of teaching, practicing how to set a vision for student success, build a student-centered classroom, and support student learning and growth.

After successfully completing pre-service training, fellows go where they are needed most: teaching full-time in one of New York City’s highest-need neighborhoods. Using the skills they honed during training, fellows bring their school, its families, and the surrounding community together to help students reach their potential.

While teaching full-time, fellows work towards a master’s degree at a partner university and attend professional development sessions to continue building their knowledge and skills. For most fellows, university coursework takes two to three years to complete. Once they’ve met all university and state requirements for certification, they’ll be eligible to earn New York State Initial Certification and continue their career helping NYC students meet their goals.

Highlights in Other States

Colorado: University of Colorado Denver

NxtGEN Teacher Residency

NxtGEN is an innovative teacher preparation pathway with a strong focus on diversifying the teacher workforce. It develops undergraduates into highly competent teachers who possess the knowledge and skills needed to serve students of diverse languages, cultures and abilities in urban and rural classrooms. The program hits a sweet spot, often attracting individuals who are interested in returning to their home communities to teach. Graduates earn a BA, a Colorado teacher’s license and elementary teacher candidates also earn a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education endorsement. The pathway is designed in close partnerships with Aurora Public Schools, Cherry Creek School District, Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County School District, and St. Vrain School District.

NxtGEN offers many individualized, wraparound supports through the School of Education and Human Development Success Center. They are designed to develop deep relationships within the NxtGEN student body and to enhance students’ approach to navigating a successful university journey. Supports include paid early field experiences in teaching as a paraeducator intern, paid residency year internships, financial aid and scholarships, empowering cohort meetings, peer mentoring, individualized tutoring, socioemotional support, time management strategies, and interview support for obtaining a permanent school district position.

T-PREP: The Partnership for Rural Educator Preparation

The University of Colorado Denver partners with Colorado rural community colleges to create innovative pathways to a bachelor's degree that can be competed entirely at the community college. CU Denver currently has partnerships with Lamar Community College in Lamar, Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Otero College in La Junta, and Trinidad State College in Trinidad and Alamosa.

The teacher preparation partnership brings together a top public urban research university and prestigious rural colleges to provide an affordable four-year pathway to teacher licensure. After successful completion of the four-year program, participants graduate with a BA in Education and Human Development from CU Denver and a teaching license from the Colorado Department of Education.

The program prepares students with an education that is rooted in best practices and a strong commitment to working in rural communities. Hands-on learning opportunities are incorporated throughout, including early field trainings and a full year of teaching experience in a local classroom.

P-TAP: Paraprofessional to Teacher Advancement Pathway

P-TAP is an online innovative and flexible pathway intentionally designed by the University of Colorado Denver for working paraprofessionals across the State of Colorado to complete a bachelor’s degree with licensure in Early Childhood, Elementary, or Special Education.

In P-TAP, candidates are immersed in an inclusive, supportive community that taps into their experience and passion for education. Throughout the program, candidates are able to maintain their paid paraprofessional position to develop strong teaching skills and knowledge while completing courses online from wherever they live and work through CU Denver’s “boundaryless” approach. All courses are either offered fully online or through Zoom after 5 p.m. Candidates are able to utilize their paid education support position (e.g., paraprofessional, interventionist, etc.) to meet the field experience requirements of the program. P-TAP staff collaborate with candidates and their school district to ensure their role is aligned to program requirements.

Candidates develop authentic relationships and a community of peer and staff support through the P-TAP Learning Community. Support and resources are available in the School of Education and Human Development Success Center, including 1-1 coaching, tutoring, academic and socio-emotional supports, and help navigating college throughout the program.

Candidates can access grants and scholarships and capitalize on credit for prior learning and professional experience. A selection of CU Denver courses are offered through partner school districts at a reduced tuition rate. And through CU Denver’s transfer-friendly approach, candidates can earn up to 15 credits of prior college credits through the School of Education & Human Development.


Grow your own educator programs are becoming increasingly popular to address teacher shortages. University of Colorado Denver’s nationally recognized Pathway2Teaching programs strengthen the link between students who demonstrate a passion for education and school districts wishing to grow their own teachers and strengthen and diversify their workforce. CU Denver’s dual enrollment pathways programs allow students to earn up to a year of college credit toward a teaching degree; open doors for more students of color; build relationships that drive college admissions, registration, and student success; and leverage highly relevant high school and college courses and field experiences to awaken students’ desire to teach. The programs have a social justice lens and are highly responsive to students’ lived experiences.

Pathway Infrastructure options include:

  • Efforts led by university faculty, graduate students, and local instructors. This program currently operates in rural and urban districts throughout Colorado and across the U.S. It provides a high level of faculty and graduate assistant contact.
  • Initiatives co-led by the school district and university faculty. In this option, district leaders are committed to designing grow your own pathways and work alongside university leaders to co-construct and run the program. The district is heavily involved in recruitment and appoints and pays for a district person to coordinate and teach in the program. Large metro school districts such as St. Vrain, Cherry Creek, Boulder Valley, and DougCO have created strong Pathways2Teaching with CU Denver.

High school students can take up to 11 education courses that transfer into CU Denver’s undergraduate education pathway as major courses or electives. The majority of the courses are state T-REP aligned and transfer into any 2 year or 4-year program in the state. Students can also earn a paraprofessional educator certificate with any three courses.

School of Education and Human Development leadership members work with district partners to identify and appoint high school teachers as instructors. High touch support and training is provided in multiple ways. Online training strengthens instructors’ knowledge and abilities to deliver equity-focused pedagogies. School of Education and Human Development faculty and school support assistants also work alongside instructors to support teaching and learning and facilitate campus visits.

Illinois: Grow Your Own Illinois

Grow Your Own Illinois (GYO-IL) evolved from the work of two separate grassroots organizations in Chicago recruiting teachers for understaffed local schools.

While the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) was training parents, mainly Black and Latina mothers in classroom leadership roles, Action Now was responding to the high rate of turnover among teachers without local connections to their neighborhood schools. When Action Now leaders heard about LSNA’s efforts to pipeline parent mentors into active teachers, the idea of “growing” local educators with neighborhood roots spread. Joining forces in 2004, LSNA and Action Now campaigned vigorously, along with six other grassroots community organizations, to establish the Grow Your Own Teacher Education Act.

The Act passed in 2005, and by 2006, GYO had won a $1.5 million state planning grant. Within a year, legislators had allocated another $3 million to launch the program. Monies were dispersed strategically to consortia, partnerships of community groups, school districts, and universities. Once funded, the organization established itself as Grow Your Own Illinois.


Now in its second decade, GYO Chicago sets the benchmark for producing racially diverse, community-centered teachers for our local public schools. With approximately 100 students, the Chicago Grow Your Own program is the state’s largest GYO cohort. Chicago participants attend a variety of colleges and universities like Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago State University, National Louis University and City Colleges of Chicago. State-funded forgivable loans help candidates offset tuition costs.

Candidate coordinators meet with GYO participants 1-1 regularly to assist them in navigating the challenges of higher education, earning a teaching license, and transitioning into the classroom. Additionally, social and educational support is offered through an inclusive peer group. During monthly meetings, cohorts address social, racial, and economic inequities impacting hard-to-staff schools. Since 2020, GYO Chicago graduated close to 90 educators of color, and graduates go on to teach in Chicago Public Schools and other nearby districts.

Eastern Illinois University (EIU)

The Eastern Illinois University Grow Your Own Project was developed to focus on rural communities in the south-east central part of the state. The purpose is to develop a regional pipeline for rural communities that have difficulty staffing their schools. The EIU consortium consists of 82 school districts in 5 regional offices of education across 21 counties.

The primary goal of the EIU GYO Project is to support paraprofessionals and parent/community leaders from non-traditional backgrounds in becoming teachers for high need communities. To that end, EIU programs offer off-campus cohorts that are tailored to working adults who want to be licensed teachers. EIU GYO candidates are:

  • Paraprofessional and community leaders who work in rural communities within our four regions from rural communities who intend to return to a rural community within these regions. They will participate in specific off campus cohorts.
  • Career changers from rural communities who intend to return to a rural community within EIU regions.
  • Campus-based non-traditional students (typically over 25, returning to school after an interruption or with significant family obligations) from rural communities who intend to return to a rural community within EIU regions.
  • Community college transfer students and EIU students who have participated in a future teacher program at a community college or the EIU Rural Teacher Corps from rural communities who intend to return to a rural community within EIU regions.
  • Qualified EIU freshmen who have participated in high school future teacher groups (Educator Rising or dual credit education courses) from rural communities who intend to return to a rural community within EIU regions.

New Jersey: Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy

The Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy is a partnership between Montclair State University’s College of Education and Human Services, Newark Board of Education, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The Teacher Academy provides Newark students the opportunity to take college-level courses, at no cost, that will apply towards a degree at Montclair State University. Students in the program also receive stipends of $3,700 from AFT to help offset education-related costs and ensure their progression in the program. Upon high school graduation, Red Hawks Rising students receive a preliminary contract to return to Newark to teach upon completion of their Montclair degree.

The Teacher Academy partners began creating a curriculum in 2018 for high school freshmen and sophomores as a prelude to the dual enrollment college courses Newark juniors and seniors take. The partnership was announced in February 2019 and the Red Hawks Rising program launched in September of that year with two Teacher Academies at East Side and University high schools. The Academy partners continue to meet weekly to plan programmatic outcomes and learning experiences and develop solutions to any issues that may arise.

The Teacher I and Teacher II curriculums for 9th and 10th grade students are built around social justice and community activities including visits to district elementary schools and participation in book buddies programs with younger students. In 11th grade, Red Hawks Rising students begin taking dual credit courses, taught by Montclair University faculty within district high schools, earning up to 30 credits by graduation. As seniors, students co-teach in a Newark classroom as part of Montclair State University’s entry-level teaching course. The dual enrollment courses, textbooks, and materials are at no cost to students or their families, a potential savings of up to a full year of college tuition and fees.

Two success coaches from Montclair’s Center for Academic Success and Tutoring are also available to Red Hawk students, providing academic and emotional support throughout their dual credit courses. The coaches guide students on the more practical side of college life, such as how to read a college syllabus and ask a professor for feedback, skills needed to be successful in college.

While the Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy is a four-year program, it is not limited to a 9th grade only admission cycle. Students may enter the program during any of their years in high school, and those who graduate with a 3.0 GPA are guaranteed admission into Montclair State University.

After students have earned 30 college credits, graduated high school, and turned 19, they can apply to be a substitute teacher or paraprofessional, which can aid them in paying for college while gaining additional exposure to the teaching profession. With Newark’s diverse student body, the Teacher Academy partners have found the most successful teachers know the district buildings and the community culture. Red Hawks Rising taps into home grown knowledge with a number of former students returning to the classroom as fulltime educators.